Between 2014 and 2019, JSI established and operated a National Technical Assistance and Training (TTA) Center to provide support to 100 community-based Healthy Start grantees nationwide. Branded the Healthy Start EPIC Center, JSI provided innovative and comprehensive capacity-building assistance to grantees to help women, infants, and families reach their fullest potential.
A Snapshot of Healthy Start EPIC Center activities:
Define and Build Awareness for the Healthy Start Model
There was a critical need to document the Healthy Start approach in an effort to build awareness and ensure a consistent approach. A special issue in the Maternal and Child Health Journal included original research articles and articles focusing on the program as a whole, written by JSI staff, grantees, and Maternal and Child Health Bureau staff. The collection of papers showcases the defining characteristics of Healthy Start, including its focus on supporting both individuals and communities, commitment to the consumer’s voice, community-driven systems development approach, use of data to guide program development, and the importance of utilizing community health workers.
A comprehensive communication campaign also built awareness and ensured consistent messaging.
Document and Promote Model Effectiveness
JSI supported efforts to document and promote the effectiveness of the Healthy Start model, providing a resource for grantees that can be used in the future. In one instance, JSI worked with two grantees, Detroit Healthy Start and Midwest Healthy Start, to improve their performance in breastfeeding. Both grantees took an ongoing quality improvement approach that focused on the consumer, was data-informed, and involved all of their staff members. This process embodied Healthy Start’s model of continued learning, and the two sites continuously analyzed the process and adapted their interventions to respond to system-level issues.
JSI also developed screening tools for the Healthy Start Grantees, which allowed them to document the need for care coordination. These ranged from demographic intake, pregnancy history, prenatal, preconception, postpartum, and parenting.
Build Capacity of Healthy Start Grantees
Capacity building was one of the primary goals of the Healthy Start EPIC Center, and JSI ensured that the grantees would be able to implement evidence-based programs to achieve the particular objectives. JSI used various capacity building methods, including hosting over 150 monthly webinars, all of which were taped and posted to the Healthy Start website for download. A two-part community health worker (CHW) course provides introductory training for perinatal health and core competencies that are needed to fulfill the roles of a CHW in the Healthy Start program. The Breastfeeding Initiative offers multiple training packages to build the grantees’ capacity to promote breastfeeding among the families they serve, and scholarships to attend lactation consultant training. The six Alcohol & Substance-Exposed Pregnancy Prevention (AStEPP) Staff Meeting Training Packages provide everything a grantee would need for staff development activities, with focus topics ranging from fetal alcohol syndrome in native and tribal communities to perinatal depression screening, support, and referrals. The AStEPP Initiative offered further training and resources to increase grantees’ understanding of fetal exposure to alcohol and other substances, including a study guide, an infographic, and a set of four videos exploring the AStePP healthy equity approach.
Create a Sustainable, National Home for Healthy Start Knowledge and Expertise for all Communities
Early on in the project, JSI recognized the need to ensure that the resources produced by the Healthy Start EPIC Center were sustainable and accessible even after the project came to an end. The Healthy Start EPIC Center website was created to host all content developed by the Center, creating a knowledge base including an inventory of the nearly 220 evidence-based practices to improve the health of women before, during, and after pregnancy, special initiative web pages with supporting resources, the inventory of over 150 webinars, and an interactive and searchable map with locations of all the Healthy Start grantees.
The Healthy Start EPIC Center continues as a robust resource supporting one hundred grantees nationwide to improve health outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy, and reduce racial and ethnic differences in the rates of infant death and adverse perinatal outcomes. JSI helped to build the capacity of these grantees, supporting program staff to grow their knowledge and better their communities, creating lasting and sustainable improvements across the country.